What’s the first thing you think of when you hear the name Karl Lagerfeld?
Is it his decades-long tenure as the creative director of Fendi and Chanel? Or perhaps his powder-white hair, black-out sunglasses, and iconic starched collars? Maybe it’s Choupette, his beloved cat (and potential heiress?) who has more more than 110,000 Instagram followers. For me, the first thing that always comes to mind is the late designer’s absolute dedication to the color black.
It’s present not just on his sunglasses, but on his jackets, his gloves, and – most importantly, for our purposes – his watch. Lagerfeld has long been associated with very unusual high quality replica Audemars Piguet Royal Oak watches, one coated in black PVD, which he began wearing shortly after the Gérald Genta creation debuted in 1972.
This Friday in Geneva, Phillips will hold a thematic auction commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Royal Oak – and on the block will be one of those blacked-out perfect fake watches believed to have been originally owned by the German fashion designer, creative, and cultural icon. I was recently able to view the watch in person and speak about it with Alexandre Ghotbi, head of Continental Europe and Middle East for the Phillips Watch Department. Here’s the full story.
Lagerfeld And The Royal Oak
Karl Lagerfeld was once asked in an issue of Architectural Digest whether he was particularly obsessed with any design objects. His answer, as translated in this 2019 thread on WatchProSite, cited the Royal Oak as a “fetish object” for him and the watch he’s “worn for 35 years.” (For what it’s worth, it appears the top replica watches highlighted in the WatchProSite thread linked above is identical to the one Phillips is auctioning off; they have identical bracelet numbers.)
During those 35 years, we know that Lagerfeld wore at least two iterations and references of the Royal Oak, as determined by the placement of the AP logo at either six (earlier) or 12 o’clock (later) on the dial. He can be seen wearing it in countless images from the 1970s onward and on video, most memorably during certain scenes of his 2007 documentary, Lagerfeld Confidential. Lagerfeld only ever wore blacked-out iterations of the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak copy watches for sale, always completed after-market. It’s also believed Lagerfeld would occasionally hand his Royal Oaks out as gifts.
The final lot (88) in the Phillips sale this Friday, May 6, dates to 1973, and is an A-series 5402ST with serial number 1254 (as noted on the caseback). It’s the first time a Royal Oak believed to be from Lagerfeld’s collection has made it to auction, and it carries with it a significant level of research completed by the consignor, Audemars Piguet archivist, and Phillips itself that ties it to Lagerfeld.
So How Do We Know This Was Actually Lagerfeld’s Watch?
We don’t. There’s no conclusive, 100-percent confirmation that it was owned by the designer. There’s no signed letter from his heirs that tie the watch to Lagerfeld himself. But what we do have are a lot of corresponding factors that lead Phillips and cheap Audemars Piguet replica watches to believe it was once his.
First, we know thanks to the case and movement numbers that the watch was built in 1973 and sent to a retailer in Italy, where it soon sold. Guess who was working in Rome at the time? Lagerfeld. We’re also only aware of two individuals who preferred to wear black-PVD Royal Oaks in the early/mid 1970s: Karl Lagerfeld was one, and the other was Juan Carlos I, the former King of Spain. This was the infancy of PVD Swiss made fake watches, just a year after Porsche Design brought the first example to market, so it’s not something that was available to your average watch collector. Over the past five decades, Phillips and Audemars Piguet believe the watch only changed hands a total of three times.
“We believe [Lagerfeld] gave it as a gift to one of his friends, who sold it to a dealer who sold it to somebody who then sold it to the consigner,” Ghotbi says. “The way the watch has been worn, the wear and tear, basically show that the watch has not been, let’s say, blacked-out anytime in the past five or six years. The condition of the replica watches shop site, the place it was sold, the chain of owners, and the AP archives lead us to heavily believe it is Lagerfeld’s watch.”
So, What’s It Like On The Wrist?
The Royal Oak has been the it watch of the past decade-plus, if not longer. The mysterious nature of the Karl Lagerfeld provenance and black PVD coating just adds to the overall intrigue and bleeding cool nature of lot 88.
“The Royal Oak was such a cutting edge and forward-thinking 2022 super clone watches when it came out, and for someone like Lagerfeld to choose such a watch and then take it one step further, it makes complete sense,” Ghotbi says. “He wanted a black watch to wear on the cuff of his white shirt, and I think it’s a story of an era. It’s the story of a genius designer and a genius design meeting up.”
You have to approach a vintage watch like this a bit differently than you would a new one. It’s close to 50 years old, so it’s not going to have the same weight or luster as a brand-new watch. It also has a hefty bit of cultural gravitas that you wouldn’t normally see with any old vintage 5402. The patina the luxury replica watches has earned through decades of wear gives it a sense of character that’s just not possible with a new watch. Every scratch on the bezel feels like it’s evidence of a life lived to the very fullest.
If you’ve never handled an early Royal Oak before, you might be surprised by how subtle the experience is. A lot of the appeal of the Royal Oak in the Instagram era is built around its off-kilter octagonal form factor. It’s easy to forget sometimes just how sleek the 1:1 wholesale fake Audemars Piguet Royal Oak watches was designed to be in the first place.
I walked into my appointment at the Phillips office in Geneva unsure of whether the coating of black PVD would make the watch stand out more or less on the wrist. I donned my best black turtleneck for the occasion while our photographer humored me with a few wrist shots. I was surprised by how it seemed to immediately sink into my wrist, like it was my own personal AAA online replica watches. (I was one second away from adopting Choupette!) The scratches on the bezel picked up the light in an interesting manner, adding a clear contrast to the matte black surface of the rest of the watch.
Most importantly, the fake watches store online feels like a vintage Royal Oak, through and through. It’s easy to forget, given the success of the model today, but the Royal Oak wasn’t an immediate success. Karl Lagerfeld went against the grain when he started wearing his Royal Oak in the early 1970s. But today, with all the cultural momentum behind the Royal Oak as a wristwatch and a design object it’s easy to understand why it initially attracted the iconoclastic designer and convinced him to make it one of his signatures.
Will It Break Any Records?
The current record for both a Royal Oak and an Audemars Piguet at auction stands at $5.2 million, a figure achieved last spring when AP auctioned off a one-of-a-kind version of its Royal Oak Concept Black Panther Flying Tourbillon for charity. As the final lot in Friday’s auction, the Lagerfeld lot will also come after another potential record-breaking watch is auctioned off, the A2, the second Royal Oak ever built, which we’ll be taking a closer look at tomorrow.
However, what the A2 has in history, the Lagerfeld watch has in cultural weight. It’s no surprise that the Phillips team has already received quite a bit of interest from both collectors and press.
“We’ve had a lot of questions, especially from the press who are normally not interested in Swiss movements replica watches or don’t cover auctions,” says Ghotbi. “Lagerfeld, Chanel, Fendi – I think all those names are bigger than Audemars Piguet. No disrespect to Audemars Piguet, but Lagerfeld is just such a bigger-than-life character. It’s getting a lot of, let’s say, curiosity. But will this curiosity reflect in the sale price? We’ll figure that out on Friday evening, after the sale.”